Focus groups provide the opportunity to hear the in-depth attitudes and perceptions of individuals in a group setting in order to more fully understand the issue at hand. Focus groups are appropriate for times when the research question is somewhat amorphous, for example, when policy makers can identify an important issue or program, but are unsure how it is viewed by the affected citizens.
The research team can also use focus groups to learn the language that people use to communicate information about a particular issue. Listening to how people talk provides an opportunity to craft messages that are guided by the actual rhetoric used by those they are targeted to reach and gives those messages added credibility.
Focus group discussions generally last 90 minutes to two hours and include 10-12 individuals. Participants are generally recruited by telephone and screened using a short questionnaire to ensure that they truly represent the population of interest. A minimum of two focus group discussions are usually held so that a comparison can be made and the researcher can identify recurring themes